This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the 'Freedom Train' will take its last ride, ending a three-decade-old civil rights tradition.
The 54-mile journey from San Jose to San Francisco marks the same distance King and thousands of activists marched in 1965 from Selma to the steps of the Alabama state capitol campaigning for voting rights.
Freedom Trains once ran in 29 cities throughout the US. San Jose's was the last of its kind in the nation. Set in motion by King's widow, Coretta Scott King, the rides include gospel songs and stories from people who advanced the civil rights movement. This morning, about 1,600 people will be on board, making the trip from the South Bay to a celebration in San Francisco.
Today also marks the National Day of Service, as volunteers work to commemorate the civil rights leader, who once said that, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?" To find volunteer events in your neighborhood, click here. To keep up with volunteer events on social media, follow the #MLKDayofService hashtag.
City Hall, Santa Clara County, libraries and most other government are closed for the day.
The federal holiday is considered a "not shots fired" day, a reminder of King's philosophy of non-violence—especially pertinent now, following a year marked by tragedies in Ferguson and Staten Island.
To keep in the spirit of the holiday, re-read King’s “I Have a Dream …” speech, his letter from Birmingham jail or some of his lesser-known speeches, missives and sermons.
"Today, we pause to pay tribute to the extraordinary life and legacy of Dr. King, and we reflect on the lessons he taught us," President Obama states in his proclamation of the holiday. "Dr. King understood that equality requires more than the absence of oppression; it requires the presence of economic opportunity. He recognized that 'we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.' In a world full of poverty, he called for empathy; in the face of brutality, he placed his faith in non-violence. His teachings remind us we have a duty to fight against poverty, even if we are wealthy; to care about the child in the decrepit school long after our own children have found success; and to show compassion toward the immigrant family, knowing that we were strangers once, too. Dr. King transformed the concepts of justice, liberty, and equality, and as he led marches and protests and raised his voice, he changed the course of history."